'It makes you weep,' pope says of refugees' stories

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ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM GREECE - When an aide suggested Pope Francis offer to fly some Syrian refugees back to Rome with him, he said he said yes immediately because it was "an inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

In the end, he said, 12 Syrians - members of three families, including six children - had all the necessary papers from the Greek and Italian governments in time to fly with the pope April 16.

The fact that the 12 are all Muslims did not enter into the equation, the pope said. "I gave priority to children of God."

Two Christian families originally had been on the Vatican's list, too, he said, but their papers were not ready in time.

Spending about half an hour answering reporters' questions, Pope Francis insisted his visit to Greece with Orthodox leaders was not about criticizing a recent agreement between the European Union and Turkey to return to Turkey those entering EU territory without legal permission.

"What I saw today and what you saw in that refugee camp - it makes you weep," the pope told reporters.

"Look what I brought to show you," the pope told them. He held up some of the drawings the children in the camp had given him. "Look at this," he said, "this one saw a child drown."

"Really, today is a day to weep," he said. Holding up another picture, he pointed to the top and said, "The sun is crying. If the sun is able to cry, we should be able to shed at least one tear" for those children who will carry the memory of suffering with them.

Asked specifically about immigration to the United States, Pope Francis insisted "it's a global problem" and that Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence also deserve the world's concern and assistance.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016